Protima Tiwary talks about the 5 exercises will help strengthen your calf muscles and are important especially when you are a runner.
We pay attention to our quads and hamstrings while training our legs, and the calf muscle often goes ignored. A common myth that many believe in is that if you’re working on your larger leg muscles, your calves will be taken care of, and if you do squats and deadlifts regularly, you have nothing to worry about as far as calf muscles are concerned. Then why are great calf muscles so rare?
As a runner, strong calves mean more stability, less risk of injury to knees, longer strides and faster sprints. Calf muscles are stubborn muscles that need a separate set of exercises that target them, and only them. Before we show you the exercises that will help you build stronger calves, let us first explain what the calf muscles are all about.
The calves make up the entire part of the posterior leg and are used for daily activities like walking running or jumping. The muscle is divided into 2 parts-
- The gastrocnemius muscle, which gives the calf its rounded shape.
- The soleus, which is the flatter, longer muscle running under the gastrocnemius and lower down your leg.
In this article, we have compiled a list of the top 5 exercises that you need to do in order to strengthen your calf muscles.
Standing Calf Raise
- Stand on a step/ platform a little above the floor. The higher it is, the better
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart
- Raise your heels a few inches above the edge and stand on your tiptoes
- Hold for 2 seconds and lower your feet. Go below the edge of the platform. You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle.
- Do 2 sets of this with 10 to 15 repetitions each.
You can do this exercise while holding dumbbells in your hands too!
Single Calf Raise
- Stand on a platform, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise one leg so that you’re now standing on one leg only.
- Be sure the ankle, knee, and hip of the leg you’re working are in vertical alignment to protect the joints.
- Raise your heel to stand on tiptoe on one leg. Keep abdominal muscles pulled in- this will help maintain balance
- Lower your feet, below the platform. Stop when you feel a stretch in your calf muscle
- Do 2 sets of these for each leg, with 10 repetitions in each set
To increase the intensity, you can do this with a dumbbell in each hand too!
Seated Calf Raise
- Use a seated calf raise machine or you can also sit on a bench
- Keep a platform under your feet, and place your feet shoulder-width apart on this platform
- Your knees should be bent 90 degrees and your toes turned out about 15 degrees
- Push your heels towards the floor – you will feel a stretch here. Now lift your heels up, as high as possible
- Do 2 sets of this, with 10-15 repetitions
You can add some weight to this exercise on the seated calf raise machine.
Bosu Ball Squat
- Place a Bosu dome with the flat surface on the floor
- Carefully find your balance and stand on the ball
- Once you’ve found stability, lower yourself slowly into a squat
- Repeat this 8 times in 3 sets
This is a great exercise for your core too- it challenges your balance and activates the deeper core muscles.
- Stand with your feet together and arms at your side
- Jump up and spread your legs and clap your hands overhead at the same time
- Jump back into the starting position
- Repeat this 50 times
If you wish to increase the intensity, you can replace this exercise with skipping too. Another tip here is to land on your toes while jumping- this activates your calf muscles.
A simple rule to follow here is to raise the hells against resistance. This resistance can be your bodyweight or an added weight like a sandbag or a dumbbell. The range of motion of your ankle will determine the effectiveness of the exercise- the more the range, the better the workout!